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Rising country star Cody Johnson hits the Knit on Saturday

Cody Johnson in March became the first unsigned artist to sell out the 70,000-plus-seat NRG Stadium in Houston. He comes to a more intimate venue, the Knitting Factory, this weekend. (Jay Trevino)
Cody Johnson in March became the first unsigned artist to sell out the 70,000-plus-seat NRG Stadium in Houston. He comes to a more intimate venue, the Knitting Factory, this weekend. (Jay Trevino)

Cody Johnson embodies the “small town boy turned country superstar” image. But for him, it’s not just a persona; Johnson is the real deal.

When Johnson comes to the Knitting Factory on Saturday, fans will get a taste of his new album slated to be released, in Johnson’s words, sometime in “Sept-ober.”

“This is a record that we’ve kind of held under wraps for a little while. I think there’s something cool about having the recording in secret and then springing it on everybody; it creates a little bit of a buzz,” he said.

Johnson was born and raised in Sebastopol, a Texas town of fewer than 500 people. He credits his small-town beginnings with fostering the down-to-earth attitude that he maintains despite his stardom.

“I think a small-town boy is always a small town boy,” he said. “You don’t let the world get to you too much … I just really try to keep my head out of the clouds.”

That small-town upbringing, plus stints as a prison guard and a semi-professional bull rider, have built him into who he is today, he said.

“Being a cowboy is very much instilled in my heart and my life,” he said.

That time as a prison guard, he was simply following in his father’s footsteps, as was customary in his small hometown. “It helped me grow up really quickly, but I always use it now as a motivation of what not to go back to,” he said.

Remembering the days of playing three-hour sets at the local Texas honky-tonks for tips and beer, Johnson said he never even dreamed his music would blow up the way it did.

But he’s beginning to embrace his country star status. “I’ve got the right head on my shoulders and all these years of work under my belt, now I’m starting to think big,” he said. “Now I’m starting to think: ‘Alright fine. I’ve got an opportunity.’ I want to take this thing and explode it as big as I can possibly explode it.”

And explode it has. On March 10, Johnson became the first unsigned artist to sell out Rodeo Houston’s NRG Stadium. In front of 75,000 people, Johnson describes it as a moment when he “took a step back and went ‘Whoa, OK. This is real. There’s no turning back from this point.’ ”

Johnson said that show was a big factor in his new partnership with Warner Music Nashville. The record label has collaborated with Johnson to form a joint label: CoJo Music/Warner Music Nashville. Johnson says it’s a move that will allow him to continue to make and perform his music on own his terms.

Johnson said he is looking forward to being in Washington. “It’s just such a blessing to have people there that want us there and we’re coming prepared,” he said. “Come on out; we’re gonna entertain you.”

After the show, those fans can eagerly await Sept-ober.


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